Oak Lawn man rekindles love of writing, pens book
BY MIKE NOLAN email@example.com September 3, 2012 6:44PM
Frank Victoria, a former magazine editor and Chicago schoolteacher, now is focusing on writing books. His first one, "The Founders' Plot," is a work of fiction based on current political scrimmage over immigration. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 5, 2012 6:01AM
Frank Victoria always has had a voracious appetite for books — spy thrillers and historical novels, and he’s revisiting the works of his favorite writer, Ernest Hemingway.
But when a particular book arrived at his Oak Lawn home earlier this summer, the former magazine writer and schoolteacher was almost too nervous to crack it open, despite the fact he’d written it.
It had taken him more than four years to complete “The Founders’ Plot,” which was released Aug. 1 and fulfilled a dream Victoria had had for more than four decades of writing a book.
A mix of hard-nosed politics and constitutional law, it’s a story of a fictional California governor elected on a promise to get tough with illegal immigrants. He’s able to push through legislation that, among other things, declares English as the state’s official language and requires real estate agents and landlords to verify whether homebuyers and renters are American citizens or have legal status in the United States. After the U.S. Supreme Court rules the law unconstitutional, the governor defies the high court.
Holding the finished product in his hands for the first time, Victoria said, he “couldn’t identify with the damn thing” and was “deathly afraid” to read it, worried some typos slipped through the final editing process.
“I couldn’t believe it was mine,” he said.
Victoria, 68, has hired professionals adept in social media to spread the word about the book and is working to line up book signings at area libraries.
“The promotion part takes almost as much time as writing the book,” he said.
Marines, then magazines
Victoria said he always had enjoyed writing, and as a kid would write and illustrate his own comic books.
“ ‘G.I. Joe’ type of stuff,” he said, with illustrations that were only “slightly better than stick figures.”
After high school, and much to his parents’ chagrin, he joined the Marines in 1962, and after his term of enlistment was up spent nearly eight years in the reserves.
Before enlisting, Victoria began studying toward his journalism degree. It took him eight years — and several different schools — before he graduated from Northern Illinois University in 1969.
“I kept running out of money and had to go to work,” he said.
Stints included unloading freighters on the docks, working a few months on the construction of the new Dan Ryan Expressway, driving a cab and selling shoes.
Putting his journalism degree to work in getting a job was a bigger challenge than he’d imagined.
“Getting a job on a newspaper — even smaller, local newspapers — it was tough,” Victoria said.
He started in public relations then later wrote for magazines, ultimately serving as editorial director for National Petroleum News.
Seeking a career change, Victoria began working toward his teaching certificate in the early 1990s. He was a substitute teacher at Ward Elementary in Chicago’s Bridgeport community, then moved to Nightingale Elementary in Gage Park, where he spent 15 years teaching science to seventh- and eighth-grade students.
“I loved it, I loved teaching,” he said.
Still, Victoria said his final two years “were really bad for me. You could say I was burnt out.” He was able to take early retirement at 631/2.
Switching gears again
Leaving teaching gave Victoria the opportunity to revisit his old friend — writing.
“I thought about writing a book about 40 years ago,” he said. “I started a couple and they never went anywhere.”
Although he had years of experience as a journalist, the process of writing a book was a challenge. Victoria said he attended more than a dozen writers conferences, where others would look over his work.
“At least two dozen,” insists his wife, Gloria, former chairwoman of the department of nursing at Moraine Valley Community College.
At those conferences, writers would share what they’d written as well as give constructive criticism. Victoria said his early efforts at being a novelist were wholly underwhelming.
“None of them were really bad, but none of them were really good,” he said of his initial efforts.
Victoria said that while he’s promoting “Founders’ ” he’s taking a break from writing, but he has ideas for a spy novel of his own, as well as a “couple of science-fiction things.”